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Did Changing Sentiment Drive Vodafone Group's (LON:VOD) Share Price Down By 44%?

Simply Wall St

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Many investors define successful investing as beating the market average over the long term. But if you try your hand at stock picking, your risk returning less than the market. We regret to report that long term Vodafone Group Plc (LON:VOD) shareholders have had that experience, with the share price dropping 44% in three years, versus a market return of about 29%. And the ride hasn't got any smoother in recent times over the last year, with the price 30% lower in that time. The good news is that the stock is up 1.9% in the last week.

See our latest analysis for Vodafone Group

While markets are a powerful pricing mechanism, share prices reflect investor sentiment, not just underlying business performance. One imperfect but simple way to consider how the market perception of a company has shifted is to compare the change in the earnings per share (EPS) with the share price movement.

During five years of share price growth, Vodafone Group moved from a loss to profitability. On the other hand, it reported a trailing twelve months loss, suggesting it isn't reliably profitable. Other metrics might give us a better handle on how its value is changing over time.

It's quite likely that the declining dividend has caused some investors to sell their shares, pushing the price lower in the process. In contrast it does not seem particularly likely that the revenue levels are a concern for investors.

You can see how earnings and revenue have changed over time in the image below (click on the chart to see the exact values).

LSE:VOD Income Statement, June 29th 2019

We like that insiders have been buying shares in the last twelve months. Even so, future earnings will be far more important to whether current shareholders make money. So we recommend checking out this free report showing consensus forecasts

What About Dividends?

As well as measuring the share price return, investors should also consider the total shareholder return (TSR). Whereas the share price return only reflects the change in the share price, the TSR includes the value of dividends (assuming they were reinvested) and the benefit of any discounted capital raising or spin-off. So for companies that pay a generous dividend, the TSR is often a lot higher than the share price return. In the case of Vodafone Group, it has a TSR of -32% for the last 3 years. That exceeds its share price return that we previously mentioned. This is largely a result of its dividend payments!

A Different Perspective

While the broader market gained around 1.8% in the last year, Vodafone Group shareholders lost 26% (even including dividends). However, keep in mind that even the best stocks will sometimes underperform the market over a twelve month period. Regrettably, last year's performance caps off a bad run, with the shareholders facing a total loss of 2.9% per year over five years. We realise that Buffett has said investors should 'buy when there is blood on the streets', but we caution that investors should first be sure they are buying a high quality businesses. If you want to research this stock further, the data on insider buying is an obvious place to start. You can click here to see who has been buying shares - and the price they paid.

If you like to buy stocks alongside management, then you might just love this free list of companies. (Hint: insiders have been buying them).

Please note, the market returns quoted in this article reflect the market weighted average returns of stocks that currently trade on GB exchanges.

We aim to bring you long-term focused research analysis driven by fundamental data. Note that our analysis may not factor in the latest price-sensitive company announcements or qualitative material.

If you spot an error that warrants correction, please contact the editor at editorial-team@simplywallst.com. This article by Simply Wall St is general in nature. It does not constitute a recommendation to buy or sell any stock, and does not take account of your objectives, or your financial situation. Simply Wall St has no position in the stocks mentioned. Thank you for reading.